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Bringing Engineering into Middle Schools: Learning Science and Math through Guided Inquiry and Engineering Design. Larry G. Richards Christine Guy Schnittka University of Virginia ASEE K -12 Workshop Chicago, Illinois June 16, 2006. Introductions. Who are you? Name From where?

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Bringing Engineering into Middle Schools: Learning Science and Math through Guided Inquiry and Engineering Design

Larry G. Richards

Christine Guy Schnittka

University of Virginia

ASEE K -12 Workshop

Chicago, Illinois

June 16, 2006

  • Who are you?
    • Name
    • From where?
    • Subjects taught
    • Teaching for how long?
  • Who are we?
to begin
To begin

A few questions

do you know
Do you know?
  • Dean Kamen
  • Burt Rutan
  • Ray Kurtzweil
  • Carver Mead
  • Bill Gates
  • Alan Kay
  • Dave Kelley (IDEO)
some major engineering achievements
Some major engineering achievements
  • 20. High performance materials
  • 19. Nuclear technologies
  • 18. Laser and fiber optics
  • 17. Petroleum and petrochemical technologies
  • 16. Health technologies
some major engineering achievements8
Some major engineering achievements
  • 15. Household appliances
  • 14. Imaging
  • 13. Internet
  • 12. Spacecraft
  • 11. Highways
some major engineering achievements9
Some major engineering achievements
  • 10. Air conditioning and Refrigeration
  • 9. Telephone
  • 8. Computers
  • 7. Agricultural Mechanization
  • 6. Radio and Television
some major engineering achievements10
Some major engineering achievements
  • 5. Electronics
  • 4. Water supply and distribution
  • 3. Airplane
  • 2. Automobile
  • 1. Electrification
what is engineering
What is engineering?
  • What do engineers do?
  • Engineers design and build things.
  • Engineers create technology.
  • Engineering is different from Science.
herb simon
Herb Simon
  • Science is the study of what is.
  • Engineering is the creation of what is to be.
engineering is different from science




Natural world

“The world as we found it”





Artificial world

The world we create

Engineering is different from science.
  • The man-made world
  • The creation of artifacts
  • Adapting the environment to our needs and desires
  • Concern of engineers, architects, and artists
design as problem solving
Design as problem solving
  • Given
    • Problem specification
    • Initial conditions
    • Constraints
    • Standards/regulations
  • Find a Solution
design is creative
Design is creative
  • Design problems
    • Open-ended
    • Ill-defined (vague)
    • Multiple alternatives
    • Generate lots of solutions
design is experimental and iterative
Design is Experimental and Iterative
  • Getting it right takes many tries
  • The first cut is rarely good enough
  • Some designs fail
  • Even if satisfactory, most designs can be improved
  • Once it works, refine it
design cycle
Design cycle
  • Requirements, problem
  • Generate ideas
  • Initial concept
  • Rough design
  • Prototype
  • Detailed design
  • Redesign
  • The core problem solving process of technological development
  • “It is as fundamental to technology as inquiry is to science or reading is to language arts”
serious problems in science technology engineering and math education
Serious Problems in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education
  • Declining enrollments in engineering programs
  • Numbers of women and minority students in engineering are not representative of general population
  • Lower science and math test scores of US high school students with respect to the rest of the industrial world
  • Technological illiteracy
  • The Virginia Middle Schools Engineering Education Initiative (VMSEEI) will design, implement, test and evaluate“engineering teaching kits” to be used by teachers and student teachers to facilitate engineering instruction in middle schools.
engineering teaching kits
Engineering Teaching Kits
  • The engineering teaching kits (ETKs) will allow teachers to instruct students on selected engineering concepts and procedures within the context of preexisting science and mathematics classes
engineering teaching kits26
Engineering Teaching Kits
  • ETKs will include a strong focus on design and innovation, how things work, how things are made, and the social and environmental impacts of technology.
  • The ETKs will involve active, hands-on, cooperative learning; students will work in teams to solve problems and design solutions.
each etk will include
Each ETK will include
  • A student guide explaining key concepts and methods
  • A teacher’s guide
  • Plans for demonstrations and experiments
  • Where appropriate a computer-based component (such as a demonstration or simulation).
some concerns
Some concerns
  • Meeting state and national standards (VA SOLs, Massachusetts, NCES, Benchmarks, ITEA)
  • Making ETKs Female Friendly
  • Incorporating ethical, environmental, aesthetic, cultural and social issues
  • Conveying the excitement and importance of engineering
our current team
Our current team
  • Larry G. Richards: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Chris Schnittka: Curry School PhD Candidate
  • Randy Bell: Curry School of Education
  • Students
    • Engineering
    • Education
  • Teachers from schools in Central Virginia
new senior design course
New senior design course:
  • Creativity and New Product Development
  • Focused on the design, implementation, and testing of ETKs
  • Multidisciplinary teams
  • Fifth offering: 2006-2007
designing experiences for students
Designing experiences for students
  • Conceptually structured
  • Evidence-based
  • Materials-centered
  • Project-based
  • Inquiry-oriented
the pressure begins
The Pressure Begins…
  • Assemble tank
  • Gather materials
  • Revise and finalize lesson plans
  • Test all activities
  • Teacher meetings
lesson plans and worksheets
Lesson Plans and Worksheets
  • Day 1: Density
  • Day 2: Buoyant Force, Drag, Propulsion
  • Day 3: Preliminary Vehicle Design and Construction
  • Day 4: Testing and Revision of Vehicle Designs
  • Day 5: Final Testing Day
teacher meeting
Teacher Meeting
  • Met with Arlene Terrell, Karen Power, and Bill Sterrett
  • Went over supplies needed, lesson plans, logistics
the pressure mounts
The Pressure Mounts…

Day 1: Density

  • Coke vs. Diet Coke intro
  • Finding Mass and Volume
  • Why do things float?
  • Density Graph
the pressure continues
The Pressure Continues…

Day 2: Buoyant Force, Drag, Propulsion

  • Forces acting on an object moving through water
  • Three stations, one for each concept
buoyant force
Buoyant Force
  • Illustrated apparent loss of weight when an object is submerged
  • A force pushes up on an object when submerged
  • Neutral Buoyancy
  • Illustrated orientation of an object in a fluid effects force on object, i.e. drag
  • Students timed objects moving through honey
  • Reviewed Newton’s Laws emphasizing the third law
  • Conducted balloon demo
applied pressure
Applied Pressure…

Day 3 & 4: Design and Construction of Underwater Vehicle

  • Introduce engineering design process and problem statement
  • Calculate mass and volume necessary to make submersible neutrally buoyant
  • Start building!
the pressure peaks
The Pressure Peaks…

Day 5: Final Competition

  • Each team demonstrates their vehicle’s capabilities
  • Success is determined by
    • Vehicle being neutrally buoyant
    • Ability to pass through rings
the pressure release
The Pressure Release…

What We Learned

  • Emphasize engineering
  • Uniform engineering design process
  • Time constraints
  • One teacher not enough?
  • Group Dynamics
ra power
Ra Power

Solar model car design



Clockwise from top left: The UVA Solar Car Team, The UVA Solar House, The UVA Solar Airship,

The International Space Station, NASA Sojourner Rover.




Energy Transfer:

  • Light hits the Solar Cell.
  • Light Energy gets converted to Electrical
  • Energy (Voltage and Current) through the
  • Solar Cell.
  • The Motor converts the Electrical Energy to
  • Mechanical Energy.
  • Directly or through Gears or Pulleys the
  • Mechanical Energy drives the wheels.


An interesting twist on the overdone solar car drag race – Students will be asked to build a car based on power rather than speed. The winning car will be the one that pulls the most weight.

ra power55
Ra Power
  • Your turn to design and build a model solar car.
  • Solar cells
  • Motors
  • Wheels
  • Car bodies
ra power56
Ra Power

Go to it!

ra power57

Ra Power

The design competition

ra power63
Ra Power
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • Can you see a project like this working in your class?
another abbreviated etk
Another (abbreviated) ETK
  • Catapults In Action: Projectile motion
  • Base structures
  • Springs
  • Bolts
  • Tasks
  • Build a catapult that can be modified to achieve accuracy or distance.
other etks
Other ETKs
  • The Green Team: Sustainable Design
  • S.M.A.R.F.: Simple Machines
  • Brainiacs: Brain tumor treatment technology; gels and brain perfusion
  • Destructural Mechanics: Engineering materials and the design of structures
other etks66
Other ETKs
  • Pump – It – Up: Human circulatory system functioning, heart disease, fluid flow, and artificial heart pumps
  • Alternative Energy Resources: Primarily wind power
  • Losing Stability: Designing and building stable floating structures
  • Aerospace Engineering: planes and rockets
other etks67
  Other ETKs
  • Bio - Mech - a – Tek: designing devices to achieve armfunctions
  • Get Stressed: building bridges from everyday materials
  • Sustainable House Design: construction, insulation, energy sources, water and waste management
  • Crane Corp: Simple Machines for complex tasks
other etks68
Other ETKs    
  • Aspects of the Crash: protecting vehicle occupants
  • Filtering Ideas: Water Filtration
  • HoverHoos: Hovercraft design
  • Crash and Burn: Cars racing off a ramp.
  • Roller Coaster Physics: keeping marbles on track on curves and hills
  • Transformers: Energy Transformation
your turn
Your turn
  • Questions???
  • Comments!!!
  • Suggestions…
turning projects into products
Turning Projects into Products
  • Student teams –
    • initial concepts and materials
  • Classroom trials
    • Feedback from Students
    • Feedback from teachers
  • Teacher reactions
test environments
Test environments
  • Middle school classes
  • Summer Enrichment Program
  • Introduction to Engineering Summer Program
  • After school programs
our pedagogical approach
Our pedagogical approach
  • Directed inquiry
  • Well defined concepts to be mastered
  • We lead the students through the process of discovery
  • Embedded authentic assessment
  • Reflection
engineering emphasis
Engineering emphasis
  • Hands-on experimentation
  • Lab sheets – fill in the details
  • Measurement, data analysis and display
  • Design challenge
you have seen our approach
You have seen our approach
  • What topics in your curriculum should we address with ETKs?
  • What concepts or problems can you think for which the engineering design approach makes sense?
our sponsors
Our sponsors
  • Payne Family Foundation
  • National Science Foundation
    • NSF – ECC – 0230609
    • Bridges to Engineering Education